Facebook friend donates kidney, saves woman’s life

— Some say Facebook friend lists are made up of people not very close at all, but all it took was a status update for a grade school classmate to step up and save a woman’s life.

A woman has just left Vanderbilt after a successful kidney transplant all thanks to a Facebook friendship.

“She could’ve spent yesterday having Thanksgiving with her family, but she sat in a room trying to get over nausea, headache and terrible pains to help me,” said kidney recipient Melanie Moore.

A diabetic, Moore was told five years ago she was in kidney failure.

“My surgeon told me, ‘You’ve got to find a donor,'” said Moore. “‘You may not have the 4 1/2 years it’s going to take to be on the list.'”

Moore posted her search for that donor as a status on Facebook. Former classmate Latrice Sharpe, who hadn’t seen Moore in person for years, clicked to reply.

“She said, ‘I don’t want you to think I’m crazy, but two years ago God told me I would be donating something to somebody and saving their life,'” said Moore. “She said, ‘I struggled with it for two years wondering who that could be, and I think it’s you.'”

“I’ve been called angel and hero, and I don’t really see myself as that,” said Sharpe. “I saw where I could actually make a difference.”

The kidney transplant at Vanderbilt was a success, and Moore stopped by the hospital room down the hall to lock Sharpe in an embrace before she left.

“You are a great person,” Moore told Sharpe. “Your family’s lucky to have you, and I’m so lucky to have you. You mean the world to me.”

“This has been the best Thanksgiving ever, and she’s the most precious gift,” said Moore

VIP: 5 things to know about Wendell Pierce

Five things to know about Actor Wendell Pierce, 46, of The Michael J. Fox Show (NBC) and Treme (HBO) — which kicks off its final season Sunday night — shares some interesting tidbits about himself:

He has known Fox for over 20 years. “I met him doing a very heavy Brian De Palma movie, Casualties of War. Here, we are doing a family comedy. It’s a joy.”

He’s from New Orleans. “The first thing you should do when you get here, is go to Preservation Hall or Frenchmen Street to hear one of America’s only created art forms: jazz.”

He has a Tony award. “I’m putting it out there,” he says: He wants to get back on Broadway. “You always want to have a follow-up when you’re a Tony Award-winning producer.” (He won for Clybourne Park.)

He’s a Juilliard grad. “I like to fly, but I’ve never taken a lesson as a pilot. You wouldn’t get on a plane with me. Why would I be interested in seeing your work if you’ve never taken any time or effort or energy into studying the craft?”

He’s a grocer. “It was an opportunity to do well and do good,” he says of his fresh-focused Sterling Farms and Sterling Xpress stores in New Orleans.

The 2013 Poinsettia Tour of Baltimore’s Reservoir Hill, Bolton Hill and Madison Park Neighborhoods

— The Poinsettia Tour of grand historic residential homes and buildings located in Baltimore’s Reservoir Hill, Bolton Hill and Madison Park Neighborhoods will take place on Saturday, December 7, 2013 from noon to 5 p.m. Each home will show its unique charm and historic significance to Baltimore’s history. This will be an exclusive opportunity to see homes and buildings that are rarely open to the general public.

Approximately 15 to 20 homes and organizations are part of the tour, which starts at the Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge (Former Temple Oheb Shalom) located at 1307 Eutaw Place. Trolley service will take guests to and from all locations on the tour. The tour is self-guided though a tour guide will be on the trolley giving an overview throughout the event. Trolley service will start at Most Worshipful Grand Lodge at 1307 Eutaw Place and make stops near all other featured homes and buildings on the tour. Tickets are $20 per person and are available online at: www.poinsettiatourbaltimore.com or on site the day of the tour.

Bill Gates: Where to put the smart money to end AIDS

A decade ago, over 1 million people in Zambia were living with HIV.

Only 143 of them were receiving treatment. The average cost of that treatment was more than $10,000 per year. Being infected with HIV in Zambia was akin to a death sentence.

When I visited Zambia in 2012, the picture had changed. Eighty percent of Zambians living with HIV now had access to treatment. I met Florence Daka, a mother of four, who received anti-retroviral treatment five years ago to prevent her from passing the virus to her baby while she was pregnant. Florence now takes medicine that allows her to work full time and care for her children. It costs about 50 cents per day.

On World AIDS Day, December 1, we have an opportunity to make Florence’s story a reality for more families by supporting an organization that is helping developing countries respond to three of the world’s biggest health challenges — the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.

Since it was founded in 2002, the Global Fund has been a leader in the world’s successful response to HIV/AIDS, TB and malaria. All told, its efforts have saved nearly 9 million lives.

The Global Fund also plays a key role in helping developing countries change the course of these three epidemics.

For example, when people have early access to HIV testing and treatment, they not only save their own lives but they dramatically reduce their chances of infecting others. Moreover, a simple preventive procedure like voluntary medical male circumcision lowers a man’s chance of acquiring HIV — and potentially transmitting it to his partner — by about 60%. Overall, effective prevention and treatment programs have helped reduce new HIV infections by a third since 2001.

That last number is crucial, because preventing new HIV infections is absolutely essential to ending AIDS. Developing a vaccine to prevent HIV remains critical, and scientific researchers are achieving exciting breakthroughs. In the meantime, we need to develop new technologies that women can use to protect themselves. Condoms are a great way to prevent the spread of HIV, but they require the cooperation of both partners.

Even if a vaccine or a revolutionary new prevention method were discovered tomorrow, our work wouldn’t be over — because they won’t end AIDS if they don’t reach people at risk. That is what the Global Fund has been so successful at doing for the past decade: delivering the best tools available to the people who need them most.

The Global Fund doesn’t just provide money for pills and other health products. It channels its resources into training new generations of doctors, nurses, and health care workers. It helps developing countries build stronger health systems. This approach guarantees that the money donors invest in the Global Fund has a long-term impact on overall health and quality of life in dozens of countries.

Put simply: The Global Fund isn’t just one of the kindest things people have ever done for each other — it’s also one of the smartest investments the world has ever made.

On Monday and Tuesday, leaders from around the world will meet in Washington for the Global Fund’s fourth pledge conference, called the Global Fund Replenishment, to raise the necessary funding for the next three years.

The gathering is a reminder that the Global Fund was founded by the world to address an urgent need. We still need the entire world’s support to continue the incredible progress we’ve made.

This World AIDS Day, we need governments, private donors, NGOs, activists and leaders to reaffirm their commitment to an organization that has helped change the course of three epidemics.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Bill Gates.

Bill Gates, chairman of Microsoft, is co-chairman of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Tips for getting the most out of Social Security retirement benefits

— Too many people end up getting less than what’s due them from Social Security when they retire because they don’t know the rules and the real financial impacts, says independent retirement advisor Gary Marriage, Jr.

“There’s a lot of talk about the future of Social Security, but we still have this benefit and if you’re 50 or older, you should be planning to make the best use of it,” Marriage says.

Marriage, CEO of Nature Coast Financial Advisors (www.naturecoastfinancial.com), which specializes in maximizing retirees’ finances, shares important facts to keep in mind as you plan for how Social Security will factor in your retirement:

•“Can I convince you to wait a few more years?” Many people are understandably eager to retire as early as possible; others fear Social Security retirement benefits will suddenly vanish, so they want to get what they can as quickly as possible— at age 62. But if you’re counting on those benefits as part of your income, you should wait until you’re eligible for the full amount. That’s age 66 if you were born 1943-54, and age 67 if you were born in 1960 and later. If you’re in the older group, retiring at 62 cuts your benefits by a quarter; for the younger group it’s nearly a third. “Chances are, you’ll be better of mentally and physically if you wait anyway,” Marriage says. “Many studies show that people live longer and are more vital the longer they remain employed; more importantly.”

•The reductions in Social Security add up to a considerable sum. The average retirement benefit in June of this year was 1,222.43, according to the Social Security Administration. People born in the 1943-54 group who are eligible for that amount at age 66 will get just $916.82 a month if they retire at 62. If they live to age 90, that’s a total of $308,052.36. By waiting just four years, they’ll net an additional $44,007.48. Waiting until age 70 can make you eligible for a bump in benefits— up to eight percent a year – but there are no increases if you delay longer.

•If divorced, were you married for at least 10 years? Were you married for a decade and aren’t currently remarried? You may be eligible to received benefits based on the former spouse’s work record. Here are some of the other requisites: you must be age 62 or older, and the former spouse must be entitled to receive his or her own benefits. If the former spouse is eligible for a benefit, but has not yet applied for it, the divorced spouse can still receive a benefit. Additionally, two years must pass after the divorce.

Gary Marriage, Jr. is the founder and CEO of Nature Coast Financial Advisors, which educates retirees on how to protect their assets, increase their income, and reduce their taxes. Marriage is a national speaker, delivering solutions for pre-retirees, business owners and seniors on the areas affecting their retirement and estates. He is an approved member of the National Ethics Bureau, and is featured in “America’s Top Hometown Financial Advisors 2011.” Marriage is also the founder of Operation Veteran Aid, an advocate for wartime veterans and their families.